Oil prices fall on mixed signals for economy

10 11, 2012 by The Times-Picayune

The price of oil finished lower Wednesday after some mixed economic signals.

Benchmark crude rose early in the day after the government reported wholesale stockpiles rose, and sales were up for the first time in four months.

Companies typically boost their inventories when they expect sales to rise in coming months. More restocking helps drive economic growth, which ramps up demand for energy.

However, the latest jobs data tempered that optimism.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that job openings dropped by 32,000 to 3.56 million in August. July's openings were also revised lower. The job market remains very competitive. With 12.5 million people unemployed in August, there were 3.5 unemployed people, on average, competing for each open job. In a healthy economy, that ratio is 2 to 1.

Employers overall did hire 4.39 million people in August -- the most since May.

Benchmark crude finished down $1.14 to settle at $91.25 in New York. The price of oil rose more than 3 percent Tuesday on concerns about supplies from the Middle East and the North Sea.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell 12 cents to $114.25 on the ICE Futures Exchange in London.

Other energy futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange:

  • Heating oil rose 2 cents to $3.23 per gallon
  • Wholesale gasoline was flat at $2.96 a gallon.
  • Natural gas rose 8 cents to $3.475 per 1,000 cubic feet.